After years of delays and prices that have in some cases nearly doubled, library officials say they will do whatever it takes to finish renovations and construction of new branch libraries.
When voters first approved the $105.9 million Branch Library Improvement Bonds, known as BLIP, in 2000, the 19 renovations were expected to be completed by 2009. Ten years after approval, work is still under way and $188.9 million has been spent so far on design or construction of 23 branches.
A series of weather delays, unexpected construction problems, LEED requirements and the decision to construct a new building pushed back the schedule and resulted in skyrocketing costs.
For instance, Visitacion Valley’s branch went from a renovation of a storefront along Leland Avenue for $5.3 million to a brand-new building two blocks away for $13.4 million. Library documents say that resulted in 26 extensions for the project.
Anza Branch went from an expected budget of $4.7 million in 2000 to $7.7 million because plans changed to include green materials and unforeseen conditions in the foundation, with no extensions.
City Librarian Luis Herrera said many of the construction “surprises” happened in older library buildings. “Have you ever tried to dig a new basement?” Herrera said. “Because it’s pretty costly.”
After unforeseen building problems and increased cost of supplies forced the overall cost to exceed the 2000 bond, library administrators returned to voters in 2007 to secure $46 million in additional money for improvements on the five remaining branches: Bayview, Golden Gate, Merced, North Beach and Ortega.
Another $40 million came from interest, rent and the library preservation fund, among other sources.
Of the $188.9 million total, $12.5 million remains to pay for the construction of the North Beach Branch, which is in the environmental review process. Herrera vowed the library will find the necessary funds to complete North Beach if the remaining money is not enough.
Eight branches, excluding North Beach, will open within the next year, according to Deputy City Librarian Jill Bourne.
“We need to stop the delays and get these buildings done,” she said.
Branch library improvement program funding sources:
|Prop A. bonds (2000)||$105.9 million|
|Lease revenue bonds (2007)||$46.5 million|
|Friends of the Library||$16.0 million|
|Library Preservation Fund||$11.5 million|
|State bonds||$9.7 million|
|Interest from bonds||$7.0 million|
|City bonds||$2.4 million|
|Developer fees||$2.0 million|
Source: San Francisco Public Library